Nick Foles will start for the Eagles on Sunday after Carson Wentz was lost for the season due to injury:
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Philadelphia Eagles have the NFC's best record at 11-2, but their season has not been a smooth and uninterrupted sail.
Like all teams, the Eagles have lost their share of important contributors to injury. Among those currently on injured reserve are running back Darren Sproles (who was hurt in a victory against the Giants on Sept. 24), left tackle Jason Peters, linebacker Jordan Hicks, special teams star Chris Maragos and kicker Caleb Sturgis.
To their credit, the injuries haven't slowed down the Eagles. Most of those players were hurt during a nine-game winning streak that ended two weeks ago in Seattle.
But Philadelphia's ability to withstand absent players will be tested as it hasn't before. When they face the Giants on Sunday in MetLife Stadium, the Eagles will play for the first time in two seasons without quarterback Carson Wentz, who tore his left ACL last week in a victory against the Rams in Los Angeles. Wentz leads the NFL with a franchise-record 33 touchdown passes and is one of the leading candidates to be voted the league's MVP.
Now, it's Nick Foles' team. The backup quarterback took over last week and his play will largely determine if the Eagles advance to their first Super Bowl in 13 years.
"They've had a lot of success this year, so I don't imagine they're going to change a whole lot of things up scheme-wise," Giants linebacker Devon Kennard said. "They might tweak a few things here or there, cater it to their quarterback. But we're expecting them to come out and do what they do best, and what they've been doing all year."
That's not exactly good news for the Giants. Philadelphia leads the NFL in scoring (31.1 points a game) and is second in rushing (143.0 yards a game). The Eagles have six different players who have caught at least two touchdown passes, including one with eight (Alshon Jeffery) and two with seven apiece (Zach Ertz and Nelson Agholor).
Five players to watch as the Giants get set to take on the Eagles
Can Foles keep it going? He's thrown only 14 passes this season, 10 last week after Wentz left the game.
Philadelphia coach Doug Pederson said the Eagles re-signed Wentz so they would have a backup who could go in and win games if something happened to Wentz. And something happened.
"They operate offensively like clockwork," Giants interim head coach Steve Spagnuolo said. "They've got weapons on the outside. The tight ends are, they got enough of them to worry about, obviously, and add in another running back (Jay Ajayi) to a group of running backs that are really good and it's running back by committee. You got to be aware of which running back is in the game. It changes how they attack you running the football a little bit differently and certainly with Carson Wentz there, you put on the tape. I said this before, he's like Houdini. He made all kinds of something out of nothing. That's what he's really good at. But the system that Doug runs down there is taxing on you defensively from a standpoint of you have to stop the run, so everybody gets heavy on their toes, and yet they got a really good play action pass game. I read somewhere where they weren't connecting on a lot of those shots that they took, but I see a lot of them they do connect on. Those are the ones that we're concerned with."
The Giants know Foles from his first stint in Philadelphia (2012-14), when he twice faced them. On Oct. 6, 2013, he relieved Michael Vick and completed 16 of 25 passes for 197 yards and two touchdowns in an Eagles victory in MetLife. That season, Foles threw 27 touchdown passes and only two interceptions. On Oct. 12, 2014 in Lincoln Financial Field, Foles started against the Giants and hit 21 of 34 passes for 248 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions.
"What I witnessed when Nick Foles went in last week, for the number of plays there in the fourth quarter, was they didn't skip a beat," Spagnuolo said. "He obviously prepares really well as a backup. He must be a true pro, because he stepped in there and it didn't look like they changed very much. They operated very similarly. He made a couple good throws, but the one at the end of the game on third down, I thought, was exceptional."
"Nick Foles – he's a great quarterback, as well, and he's done a lot of great things in this league," Kennard said. "I think he's definitely capable. But Carson was playing at an MVP-type of level. So I don't know if Foles is going to be able to do that well, but hopefully not. Not this Sunday at least."
*In 1999, Spagnuolo was in his first season as an assistant coach with the Eagles under Andy Reid. That year, Philadelphia selected quarterback Donovan McNabb second overall in the NFL Draft. But Reid started the backup quarter for the season's first nine games – Doug Pederson.
"The biggest compliment to Doug is that Andy Reid takes the head job in Philadelphia – Andy was with Doug in Green Bay - and he wants Doug to be the quarterback to start things off," Spagnuolo said. "I know we drafted Donovan and the whole deal, but Doug came in and you talk about character and work ethic and all of the things surrounding being the starting quarterback with the second pick of the draft right behind you. He handled it with class, he's a class man. To me, I'm happy for Doug and the season he's having. He's done a terrific job down there. I enjoyed working with him in 1999, and I'm happy to see his success this year."
*The Giants might be short on experienced safeties on Sunday. Today, they declared backup Nat Berhe out with a hamstring injury. Starter Landon Collins – an All-Pro last season who has not missed a game in his three years with the team – did not practice today and is doubtful with an ankle injury.
"He's a tough guy," Spagnuolo said of Collins. "He wants to play. We'll see what happens when we get to Sunday, because tomorrow is just a jog-through."
The Giants today signed safety Ryan Murphy off their practice squad. He takes the roster spot that opened when offensive lineman Justin Pugh was placed on injured reserve yesterday.
Murphy, 6-0 and 216 pounds, has spent the entire season on the Giants' practice squad. A 2015 seventh-round draft choice of the Seattle Seahawks, Murphy did stints on the Denver Broncos practice squad in 2015 and 2016. He has never played in an NFL regular-season game.
*The Giants listed three players as questionable: cornerback Brandon Dixon (heel/hamstring), and wide receivers Roger Lewis, Jr. (ankle) and Travis Rudolph (hamstring).
*Spagnuolo said he doesn't yet know if cornerback Eli Apple will be inactive for a fifth consecutive game.
"We'll see where the roster goes right now," Spagnuolo said. "I'm kind of doing the numbers of the 46 (active players) and it's flowing, but we'll figure it out by Sunday. And I certainly would not want to say anything now anyway to the opposition."
*The Giants and Toyota, in partnership with the United States Marines, will hold their annual Toys for Tots drive at MetLife Stadium when they host the Eagles on Sunday. Fans are encouraged to bring new, unwrapped toys to any of the collection vehicles and volunteers located at each entrance to the stadium prior to the game. Uniformed Marine Corps Reserves will be on hand to assist in collecting these gifts.
Modell's Sporting Goods has donated $2,500 worth of sports equipment to the cause and will hand out coupons for select Nike products to all fans who donate a toy. Coupons are redeemable at Modell's locations only. All gifts collected during the drive will be donated to Toys for Tots, the premier community action program of the United States Marines. Over the last 50 years, the Marines have distributed over 272,000,000 toys to children across the country during the holiday season.
Since the late 1970's, the Giants have participated in this program and hosted an annual Toys for Tots drive, helping to bring the joy of Christmas to children across the tri-state area. Once again, the Giants ask their friends and fans to join the team as we assist our neighbors in need.